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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

508                The Loom of Language
nde> pluck—plitg^ proof—prove, the fact that very many Americans
discard the voiceless in favour of the voiced consonants does not
prevent British audiences from flocking to gangster sound-films.
Most of us are not trained phoneticians, and most people without
some phonetic training are insensitive to comparatively crude distinc-
tions3 if interested in what the speaker is saying Fastidious folk who
foresee fearful misunderstandings because people of different nations
will inevitably give slightly, or even sometimes crudely, different values
to the same sound symbols may well reflect on the following remarks
of an English phonetician
A recent experiment proved that the sounds s, /, th are often indistin-
guishable to listeners when broadcast in isolation by wireless trans-
mission Nevertheless, despite this fact, listeners understand perfectly
what is said It follows, then, that up to a certain point, it is quite un-
necessary to hear each and every sound that the speaker utters We know
that this is so from our experience in listening to speakers in laige halls,
or theatres If we are at some distance from the speaker, we miss many
of his sounds, but provided we get a certain number, or a certain per-
centage of the whole, then we understand what he is saying The point
to remember is that there is, or there would appear to be, in language an
acoustic minimum necessary for intelligibility, and provided the listener
gets this, it is all that he requires The rest is superfluous The speaker
may utter it, but as far as the listener is concerned, it is quite immaterial
to him whether he hears it or not The more familiar we are with a
language, the smaller is the fraction of its sounds, etc , that we require to
catch in order to understand what is said Much of the acoustic matter
that is graphically represented in the written language is unnecessary for
intelligibility, while, on the contrary, intelligibility requires that certain
acoustic features of the language must be present in speech which have
no representation whatever in the written language Educated speech
differs from uneducated speech mainly in providing a greater acoustic
minimum
(LLOYD JAMES  Historical Introduction to French Phonetics)
Although the Greek range of consonants, and moie especially its
consonantal combinations, offers difficulties for most non-Aryan-
speaking peoples and for some people who speak Aryan languages, the
vowel range of a Latin-Greek vocabulary is not a serious drawback
We need only five simple vowels and their derivative diphthongs As
Jespersen nghdy remarks: "it is one of the beauties of an international
language that it needs only five vowels, and therefore can allow a
certain amount of liberty in pronouncing these sounds without mis-
understanding arising." Whether different citizens of a socialist world-